Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A New Year and Budgeting and Health (updated on 2/15/2018)


New Vent Fan Arrived after a long delay. Fan-Tastic Model 7350.

January, I spent time with Gal Van Nation (GVN) FB group and also made an appearance at Rubber Tramp Rendevous (RTR) – to say hi to Bob Wells during one of his Meet and Greet sessions, and Women’s RTR.  There were more than 150 people at that session alone… and he had three other similar sessions.  Yes, RTR has outgrown me.


Entrance into RTR area off of Mitchell Mine Road.  In the people hardly anyone camped this close to the main road.  BLM estimated there were about 3,500 people there this year.

Took a break from RTR and GVN to help Jenn Abel ( on a cleanup project along the Colorado River in Ehrenberg.  Very rewarding experience.


Budget Update

Month / Pay Period





No Receipts

Sep 20- Oct 17






Oct 18 Nov 14






Nov 15 – Dec 19





not calculated yet

Dec 20 – Jan 17





not calculated yet

UPDATE: It is getting harder to live off of Social Security alone and it is time to tighten my belt and change my spending habits.  I am putting it all out here for the world to see and am open to suggestions.

1) Gasoline … Dec 19-Jan 17… I travelled less, hence lower gas expenses.  For the next couple of months, I don’t plan to do much driving, so this figure should come down.

2) Fast Junk foods… My eating habits have totally changed (since the removal of a tumor in March 2017).  (All $ is gas $… I keep telling myself.)  I can’t seem to help myself when I get into towns, running errands and then resort to fast foods, but dropped almost $50 from Nov. 14 total.

3) Groceries are much lower as I resupplied last month, for longer stay in boondocks without frequent resupply. 

4) Meals Out… dropped a little and will drop even more but seems like a couple meals out in a month isn’t bad.

These are not by any means my only budget items. Verizon/internet fees, Gym membership/showers, SPOT fee, membership, Cloud fees, and other ETs as auto and dental insurance, come to: $295.00 monthly.  I can’t change much of those right now.  I am, however, cancelling my gym membership as there are no gyms near where I boondock.  I am using military base fitness centers when I am near them. 

Major changes to my rig:…got my new vent fan installed, moved my solar suitcase onto roof of van, and got some of the paint fixed, but more to do.  The new fan has a remote control, and after nine years with cheaper model, I highly recommend investing in this model instead (see top of page).  So many more options, and love the rain sensor which will close the vent if it rains.  There is a temperature control too… so if you have pets… and it is so very quiet, you can’t even hear it at the three slowest speeds.


Still to do:  Finish fixing peeling paint the van.  Hard to do with shoulder situation so I bought an oscillating sander to assist.  Also, building a box on the floor of my trailer in order to slide the kayak into the trailer without any overhead lifting involved.  Lifting the kayak may not be possible after the surgery, so I want to prepare for that possibility so I can continue to be independent and keep kayaking.  Spent time at Mittry Lake kayaking, some with new friend Kris, and some with old friend, Bev.  I truly love kayaking.  I feel more at home alone on the water, in wilderness areas, than anywhere else on earth.




I have been concentrating on my health and fitness lately and I promised a graph of weight loss since taking up the vandwelling lifestyle.  Changes over time.  LOL


Left: Misc old fat photos; Right: 2005 compared to 2014.




2005 Total Knee Replacements. I had no ability to walk down a grocery store isle, and was shopping for a wheelchair.  I was bow-legged. 300 lbs
2007 Feb Retired on SS Disability.  Was finally regaining my balance and being more active, but a care accident give me PTSD, and I was unable to work.  Injured shoulder also. 285 lbs
2007 Oct Began walking more and trying to get healthier. 260 lbs
2008 Jan Diagnosed with COPD.  Probably had it for years.  Got Pulmonologist, had Bronchoscopy, other health tests. 262 lbs
2008 Jun Continued to be more and more active.  Riding bike.  Got some other medical issues resolved, including a couple of surgeries. 251 lbs
2008 Dec Was feeling healthier then ever and looking for new goals and challenges.  Learned to kayak and volunteered for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary… patrolling the Bay by Kayak. 240 lbs
2009-2014 Bought my own kayak and hit the road to vandwell fulltime and Kayak America.  Completed 50th state Hawaii, on my 70th birthday, 5/16/2014. 236 lbs
2017 Mar Carcinoid tumor (benign) found in my right lung and removed.  My COPD symptoms stopped almost completely. This tumor did not show up in the 2008 Bronchoscopy.  This tumor was putting excess hormones in my body:  Serotonin, Bradykinin, Histamine, and Prostglandins.  This stuff can mess up your body chemistry.

BUT my shoulder is getting very bad and I consulted two shoulder surgeons, both recommended  Reverse Shoulder Replacement (I cursed).  Recovery from this is lengthy, and it could be a year before I can resume normal activities.
234 lbs
2017 Nov Trained for long distance hiking and still contemplating a “Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement”.  I am in a lot of pain.  Getting 2nd opinion on Shoulder.  My weight has not been this low in 24 years. 214 lbs
Postponed shoulder surgery decision.  Continue to loose weight and prepare for the possible shoulder surgery. 210 lbs
Goal Because I am off the charts in bone density, I am at my ideal weight and a size 12 at 190.  I am not trying to loose weight, I am trying to be the fittest I can be for my age. 190 lbs

In addition to getting my house in order in 2018, I will endeavor to get rid of all the genealogical materials I have been collecting and dragging around for 5+ decades.  Postage of $50 to mail materials off to archives around the country.  Much more to do.  Tall order for a year, but I will be in a much better frame of mine to deal with possibly life-altering shoulder surgery if all of this is under control.  These are hard adjustments for me indeed.20180213_142113

Now resting and regrouping in Yuma area.  Seeing doctors, etc.  Rest is good.

Monday, November 20, 2017

HipStar™: The World's Best Hands-Free Travel Cart

Posted first by Igor Koshutin (Creator); re-posted by Swankie.

HipStar™ - Hands-Free Travel Cart 
(watch video -

Hey Backers, 

Today we have another great supporter - Charlene Swankie (AKA "SwankieWheels"). Charlene is living on Social Security, but she is living life to the fullest, camping full-time in a home built camper van.  Here is a bit of her back story: 

In 2005, Charlene could not walk and was shopping for a wheelchair. She then had bilateral knee replacements and two years of physical therapy. She has had to learn how to walk all over again. Soon, she began biking and running. In 2008, she was feeling so fit, got bored, bought a kayak, learned to kayak and set off to Kayak America. Charlene's goal was to kayak all 50 states, and she completed her 50th state, Hawaii, on her 70th birthday! She is now 74 and recently began looking for a new goal and decided on a solo hike of the 800-mile long Arizona National Scenic Trail (or Arizona Trail). She is working hard to prepare for that challenge. Charlene has wilderness and outdoor experience, having studied and hiked with Paul Petzoldt (founder of the National Outdoor Leadership School - NOLS) in the 1970s, but that was 40 years ago. A lot of retraining is required.

Here is what Charlene wrote: 
“I struggle to get ready for the hike due to limited finances, and also a bad shoulder. That is why HipStar™would be so important to me. I am seeking a second opinion this month on the shoulder to determine what I need to do about it and how much recovery time will be required. My goal to hike the AZ Trail felt aimless... and I kept searching for a purpose for doing it. I wanted a goal that was bigger than life itself, like kayaking all 50 states was, but I couldn't find one until I connected with HipStar™. Needless to say, I am extremely excited about this new challenge... of working with HipStar™ to make the wilderness more accessible to seniors and those mildly physically challenged!

One problem I see is, the Arizona Trail Association  doesn’t allow carts!!! Why??? They allow bikes, and horses, and unicycles? I know I could not use it on the ground through the Grand Canyon Angel Trail, but that's what is so great about your HipStar™ design, I can roll it where possible and backpack in other places. I intend to fight this with the AZ Trail Association and get permission to use HipStar™! I am going to contact the Americans With Disabilities group and get them behind me in fighting the park and trail systems, to allow these carts. ACCESSIBILITY is supposed to be provided for all and not allowing seniors to use the cart is discrimination! I might even fight them to the point of getting arrested and jailed for refusing to be forced off the trail for using the cart. And I certainly would bring in the press if that happened.”

Then we discussed this subject. I told her that I was also going to apply for special permission to use HipStar™ on restricted trails as soon as HipStar™'s design is completed, tested and first product rolls out production line. But, of course, I had no idea what stages I have to undertake. So, we agreed to join efforts and outline the plan. I am sure many of you would support us! 

Then Charlene wrote:
“I am very excited about the idea of doing battle with the Park Service and other trail associations on behalf of all Seniors who wish to continue to enjoy the outdoors. I think this could be a wonderful partnership between HipStar™ and the senior community. Let’s continue to explore the possibilities!” 

Charlene has written about her kayaking adventures and pre-visits to Arizona Trail trailheads, and also about life on the road for the past decade as a full-time vandweller. 

Charlene Swankie :

Please visit the HipStar™ website for more details.

Also support them on HipStar™.  HipStar is a collapsible cart that makes it easy to move heavy items over any type of terrain and can be used as a backpack if needed.   The HipStar™ is a project of our passion in striving to help people achieve full mobility with only the power of two legs and accomplish physical feats they never thought possible – no matter if they’re young or old. It will be an affordable way to make travels more enjoyable. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Awakening of Swankie (being all I can be… to me)

If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself.  If you want to eliminate the suffering of the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself.  Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation. Lao-tzu


Left Monterey, CA yesterday morning arriving in Paso Robles, CA where I may stay a few days.  Away from anyone I know, away from doctors, just away. Last night I parked in a large parking lot not far from Walmart.  Used to be a Kohl’s store there but it is closed now.  One other camper in lot.  It was quiet and I rested and caught up on stuff.  Got the ladder out and cleaned off my solar panel, and took the plastic off the roof vent, as I doubt I will get any rain here and I need the air flow. I will fix the leak soon, when I get out to open spaces.

So, I woke this morning thinking, I’m nobody to no one – no one’s mother, daughter, sister, wife, lover, friend.  No one.  OK, then so I need to be all that to and for myself. 

The people I have loved the most, have hurt me the deepest.  In some cases so deep that I can not to bear to think of them or be with them anymore.  I could not be to them what I wanted to be to them or what they wanted me to be.  I CAN be all that to me and if I work hard and fast I will be able to leave the second-best legacy behind for them – the genealogy I have spent 1/2 a century working to collect.  Statistics say I have 15 years left, well, probably more as I’m a lot healthier than most living 73-year olds.

Feels good, fresh, starting over at will.  No obligations to others, just me!  Take the best care of me that I can.  Be the best I can be.  That felt hopeless before, but with the recent involuntary weight loss (caused by the removal of a hormone-secreting benign tumor in my right airway, blocking air flow to my right lung) I have hope that I can be all that – to me, for me.  Yes, it is time to be selfish and it is o.k. to be selfish.

So, I better get busy.  Today, I am working on genealogy notes laying around on my desk.  Be gone, notes, be gone.


Monday, September 25, 2017

On the road again... heading to southern Califonia (Sept. 25, 2017)

Have visited with family and friends in Washington State, Oregon and northern California. (Me with Lois Middleton)

 My granddaughter and a Gypsy Vanner.

Now heading south to take care of health issues (follow-up with lung doctor and another bronchoscopy) for myself and get back to my plans for hiking the Arizona Trail.

More blog posts will follow soon.  I hope you have not been too lonely in my absence.

Who is Swankie?

My photo
Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
Visit me on In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles in Spring 2017. In training now for the hike.